Wisconsin PFAS Action Council Developing Action Plan

By: - February 5, 2020 2:31 pm
Marines fighting fires with foam

Marines fighting fires with foam, a product that uses PFAS (Photo: Lance Cpl. Shawn Valosin/U.S. Marine Corps)

The Wisconsin PFAS Action Council (WisPAC) is currently developing an action plan to identify priority responses to per-and polyfluroalkyl substances (PFAS) spread in the state.

The substances are man-made chemicals used in a variety of products including non-stick pans, fast food wrappers, and firefighting foam. They’ve been industry staples for decades, and in that time have contaminated water supplies across the country. In Wisconsin, over 30 such sites have been identified by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Over 4,000 chemicals exist within the umbrella we call PFAS, and they might not all have the same health effects.

Under Executive Order #40, signed by Gov. Tony Evers in August 2019, the DNR was directed to establish the WisPAC as a means of coordinating the state’s response to PFAS contamination. Particular emphasis was placed on the development of an action plan, which is to be completed by June 30, 2020.

The first step in developing the plan is the gathering of public input, in order to inform what action priorities will be recommended. WisPAC members will collect input directly from state agencies, while an anonymous online survey will collect public comments until midnight Feb 21, 2020. Two advisory groups have already been established to expedite this process. WisPac’s action has four main focus points:

• Preventing future discharges and exposures

• Inventorying and minimizing current PFAS exposures

• Identifying and addressing historic or legacy PFAS discharges or exposures

• Educating the community and communicating about the risks associated with PFAS

This effort comes as a bipartisan bill is introduced by Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), which creates a framework for addressing PFAS in the state. It calls for a $7.7 million investment in a PFAS policy framework, from funding water testing and treatment, to furthering research into the compounds.

A chart of future public input opportunities is available on the WisPAC page on the DNR’s website. Two public speaking opportunities will be held on Feb 12, both at the DNR building in Madison, from 9 a.m.- noon, and 1 p.m.-4. The meetings are the Citizen/Public Advisory Group meeting, and the Local Government Advisory Group meeting, respectively. Further information on the meetings will be available about a week prior to their scheduled days.

“WisPAC would like to hear what Wisconsinites think are the most important issues facing the state when it comes to PFAS, and what actions can be taken to address these emerging chemicals,” reads the page.

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Isiah Holmes
Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a journalist and videographer, and a lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Holmes' video work dates back to his high school days at Wauwatosa East High, when he made a documentary about the local police department. Since then, his writing has been featured in Urban Milwaukee, Isthmus, Milwaukee Stories, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Services, Pontiac Tribune, the Progressive Magazine, Al Jazeera, and other outlets. He was also featured in the 2018 documentary The Chase Key, and was the recipient of the Sierra Club Great Waters Group 2021 Environmental Hero of the Year award. The Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council also awarded Holmes its 2021-2022 Media Openness Award for using the open records laws for investigative journalism. Holmes was also a finalist in the 2021 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards alongside the rest of the Wisconsin Examiner's staff. The Silver, or second place, award for Best Online Coverage of News was awarded to Holmes and his colleague Henry Redman for an investigative series into how police responded to the civil unrest and protests in Kenosha during 2020. Holmes was also awarded the Press Club's Silver (second-place) award for Public Service Journalism for articles focusing on police surveillance in Wisconsin.